Saturday, December 22, 2007

Someone Please Create Free, HIPAA-Compliant Patient-Physician Email

This is a rant. Or a plea. Or a pitch for a product idea that I wish someone would just run with. It would be invaluable to everyone involved.

Free, encrypted, HIPAA-complaint patient-physician email. Simple. Easy-to-use. Ad-supported. Perhaps by Google ads, like Gmail.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Think about it. Most physicians actually want to email their doctors. And many doctors would email their patients if there was a free, encrypted, private, easy-to-use system available. But most physician-patient email systems are expensive or are cumbersome to use. (For more background, see this three part series on patient-physician email on Tech Medicine.)

So here's my proposal:
Dear Google (or another company with resources and ambition),

Please create an email system where all communication between physicians and patients is encrypted to comply with the HIPAA privacy law.

Make it free. Advertise it to doctors. Emphasize the HIPAA-compliant part. Emphasize the free part.

Monetize it with Google adwords or some other system. In fact -- if this is Google I'm speaking to -- just build it on Gmail. Countless Gmail users are already fine with seeing contextualized ads right next to their email. I don't think doctors and patients would mind. And if they do, well, those people won't use it. Plenty of other people will.

I understand there are technical limitations. But people have designed HIPAA-compliant patient-physician email systems before. I'm just asking you to do it better. And for free.

It would be huge. Not only in terms of potential advertising revenue, but it would provide a real service to patients who would love to email their doctors. And it might strengthen the physician-patient relationship like few things could.

Thanks for listening.
Photo Credit: Flickr

1 comment:

Leanna said...

Yes, Yes, Yes!! I work with a large HMO company that has a "system" considered HIPPA compliant for in-the-organization members/physician communication. However, over-and-over our patients request "simply e-mail me." It could be educational material, such as lipid panel results and what they mean, or a simple flowsheet of recent labs and comments on patient specific information. Maybe they don't want to write fevorishly while a nurse dictates over the phone what their doctor says they should do in response to their bp, lipids, obesity and threat of stroke. Sometimes, the "laundry list" of instructions, from adding deleting or changing multiple meds to making nutritional and physcial lifestyle changes blows one's mind. Or, maybe they don't like the idea of taking time to sign up on an internal organization's "HIPPA-Compliant" site, only to wait weeks for a password to arrive, and then struggle with system flaws, and limited support services when the internal system fails.

I myself use the system our organization provides, as a member as well as a health care provider, but often find it lacking.

Let's face it: Some day, as with our current world wide internet we will have an infrastructure that actually can cross barriers at an international and global level spanning medical fields, organizations, health information, health records, and endless health education opportunities. It's inevitable, so let's start simple--make it possible to e-mail the doctor.

HomeCareLink [HCL]